On Friday, the United Nations tabled a resolution to abolish the death penalty for engaging in same-sex sexual activity.
India is one of these 72 counties to deem same-sex sexual activities as ‘unnatural’ and considers it a criminal offence. Under the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, homosexuals can be imprisoned for 10 years or life.
Apart from that, India does not recognise same-sex marriages and consider them illegal. The law does not protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
Considering all this, the United Nation’s resolution is very significant in securing basic rights for the people of the LGBTQ community, and also ignites hope that the resolution might pave way for more progressive initiatives such as this.
Out of the 47 counties present for the vote, 27 voted in favour, 13 against the resolution, and 7 abstained from voting. India and The United States of America were two of the 13 counties that voted against the resolution, the others being Japan, China, Botswana, Burundi, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Though undeniably disheartening, India’s vote against the resolution doesn’t come as much to a shock. India borrowed section 377 from a British law, and though the United Kingdom saw the implications of such a law and its affect on the lives and personal freedom of its citizens and abolished it in 1967, India continues to have it decades later, with no government ever considering its removal or initiating talks about it.
Apart from such laws, homosexuals in India continue to deal with severe social discrimination and violence. They are subjected to corrective rape and physical assault. They face discrimination at work, with issues ranging from mockery by co-workers to being fired for their sexual orientation. That said, no un-closeted homosexual has ever held public office in India.
In popular culture in India, there exists several negative and demeaning stereotypes about homosexuality across various media. Also, the word ‘gay’ is still very widely used as an insult with being called gay being met with extreme reactions.
As disheartening and appalling our attitudes towards the LGBTQ community is as a society, its much worse, almost barbaric, for a state to deny basic freedom to its citizens, to make personal choices like who to love or have sex with.
India’s vote in the United Nations is a major blow to human rights, and sets us back decades in our path to secure basic human rights for all our citizens.
As long as barbaric laws like section 377 continue to be in place, India is a very long way from securing basic human rights for all its citizens, indiscriminately, without considering their sexual orientation.